Interview

Cynthia K. Sakai

11.29.16

Cynthia Sakai’s jewelry collection, Vita Fede was born when a friend brought home some traditional bracelets she bought on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. She made some changes to the color and design and people immediately took notice, and wanted one of their own. Sakai’s been designing since she was a teenager and eventually was running her own showroom when Vita Fede was born. An entrepreneur at heart, it was easy to go full steam ahead with a new jewelry business. The line is inspired by her natural surroundings and worldly point of view. The collection is made in Italy.

Interview

Design seems like a very organic career choice considering your impressive artistic roots. What was your earliest fashion memory?

My earliest fashion memory was when my mom and I went out and got these matching jean jackets. We went to the local craft store and bedazzled our denim in rhinestones, buttons, chains, anything sparkly! I was very inspired by Madonna’s music videos and wanted to emulate her style.

What was your biggest take away from designing an accessories line at such a young age?

It taught me to believe in yourself and just keep going, no matter what people say. Trust your instincts and go with it.

How did running your own multi-label showroom result in you becoming a jewelry designer?

I had a friend that was a showroom owner across from my space, and she brought me back some bracelets from a trip to Italy that she thought that I would like. They were traditional bracelets from Ponte Vecchio in Florence. I made some changes to the color and design and the style ended up being a hit! People wanted more so I looked into the market and designed something that felt like Fine since the quality is all handmade in Italy, and can be worn with all of my Fine pieces. That’s how Vita started!

Vita Fede is Italian for “life” and “faith.” Why are those words so special to you?

“Vita” was the first word I learned in Italian and Faith is the name of my puppy, which translates to “Fede.” When I rescued her from the ASCPA, she was already named. The entire litter had been left on the side of the road in LA and their names were Faith, Hope and Charity.

Was it difficult at first to streamline your Italian manufacturing process while being based in the LA?

Operating in a different time zone is always a bit complicated no matter who you’re dealing with. Moving to New York has made it a little bit easier. Nevertheless, the Italian hand-craftsmanship is such a key ingredient in our brand DNA.

Could you see yourself relocating to Italy?

I would love to someday have a second home in Italy, but the U.S. will forever be my home base.

Is there one piece that you’re most proud of?

Our classic Titan Bracelet. When I first designed it, there was a lot of initial pushback but I believed in what I had created and trusted my gut. It has now since been our best-selling item and is a signature piece.

Your designs are intended to be stacked and mixed. What was the inspiration behind the customizability?

I love seeing how different people style their pieces and show their individuality – it inspires me. I personally layer Vita Fede with my vintage and fine pieces I’ve collected throughout the years.

Do you plan to expand to include more product categories with Vita Fede?

Vita Fede is launching our men’s collection next season and eventually will become a full accessories brand, including small leather goods.

What did it mean to you to be inducted into the CFDA back in 2014?

It’s an honor to be recognized by your peers and is inspiring to be a part of such a prestigious group of designers.

What do you think will be the stand-out Fall jewelry trend?

Mismatched earrings will be big this Fall. Style in general has evolved into a looser frame of reference so people are dressing however they’d like more than ever.

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring young female entrepreneurs?

Sometimes being an entrepreneur is harder than anything you could’ve imagined, but it’s also greater than anything you could imagine. You have to put your whole heart into it, so make sure you have the passion to back it up.